The view from the twentieth floor of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office building is incredible. From the executive conference room you can see clear to the Heights; BC’s Gasson bell tower rises above the surrounding suburbs. From my desk, I could peek out onto Boston Harbor or the Charles River, depending on which way I turned. One day I caught glimpses of the tall ships taking their annual jaunt through the harbor. Viewed through a metaphorical lens the height of the AG’s office, which towers above the statehouse next door, hints at the independence, responsibility, and power bestowed on the office. In Massachusetts, the AG (who is elected, not appointed, and is currently Maura Healey) both protects and enforces the state’s laws, and stands up for its citizens when the federal government’s actions threaten them. Every year, a select few third-year BC Law students get to peek into and experience the extensive and demanding work behind fulfilling those duties. Last year, I had the fortune of being one of those students.
Lawyers have their own language. It might be a little frustrating at times, but that is the reason we spend three painful years in law school learning how to think, speak, and write like lawyers. By the time we pass the bar, we have been equipped with a roadmap that allows us to navigate the complex legal arena. Of course, we are not the only profession with its own language. In fact, almost all professions have terminology that is commonly understood by those within the profession, but confusing to those outside of it.
This year I am participating in Boston College’s Juvenile Rights Advocacy program, and I am busy learning yet another language. Do you know what the acronym IEP stands for? Have you ever heard the terms FAPE? What is the difference between the BSEA and OCR? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, don’t worry, many people don’t know them. IEP stands for Individual Education Plan, and as the name suggests, it’s an educational term. The BSEA is a court that is used to resolve education disputes; it stands for Bureau of Special Education Appeals. The OCR stands for Office of Civil Rights, which is another court that can be used for certain types of education related claims. FAPE is a legal term that stands Free Appropriate Public Education, which is a federal right and typically the basis for the claims that would be brought in front of the BSEA or OCR. As for CRA, it is not strictly an education term, however, many children who require specialized education services also require the help that a CRA grants. CRA stands for Child Requiring Assistance, and parents file them with the courts when they need the courts help to supervise their children.
I am pleased to host a guest post today from 2L Sarah Nyaeme, who reflects on her clinic experience this past semester.
Almost exactly a year ago, I was in New York for my pro bono spring break trip. It was only my second time in the City, and in addition to looking forward to working at the
International Legal Foundation for the week, I was also excited to explore all that New York had to offer.
The trip took an unexpected turn when I realized my phone was missing from my purse
on my first day there. After searching my pockets, the surrounding area, and using the “Find My iPhone” app on my friend’s phone, it was clear that my phone had been stolen. Unsure of what to do, I called the non-emergency line of the local police department, assuming that a call to 911 was an improper use of the emergency number. I mean, it was just a phone.
It feels like just yesterday when I was getting ready to pack my car and head to Boston for my first year of law school. Now, the last week of my internship is quickly approaching and it’s hard to believe that on-campus interviews (or “OCI”) are right around the corner.
I spent this past summer interning for a judge at the D.C. Superior Court who presided over domestic relations matters. Coming from a divorced family myself, I was intrigued to learn about how these issues were handled in court. But part of me also worried that I would not truly be able to immerse myself in the subject area when I had no exposure to it from my first year’s classes and no intention of pursuing a career in family law.
However, I am happy to report back that interning for a judge exposed me to a lot, taught me important skills for my future career, and made me excited for next year’s classes. Here’s a breakdown of lessons I learned:
I’m pleased to host a guest post by Ned Melanson ’19, who writes about one of BC Law’s several programs that place students in legal internships in other countries.
Picture this: It’s Wednesday, 5:30pm, in late February in Boston. You, a 2L still coming down from the whirlwind of 1L (or a 3L starting to feel like a caged bird ready to spread your wings), are sitting on the yellow room couches with your law school chums, waiting for that night class to start. You are wondering why you were too lazy to sign up for a morning class and subjected yourself to a 6:00pm. The light fades from the Newton sky as you and your compatriots trade gossip from the last weekend or discuss plans for the upcoming, yet still distant one. Outside it’s cold and there’s snow in the parking lot.
Now picture this: It’s Wednesday, 5:30pm, in late February, in Dublin. You, adventurous and with great foresight, are sitting in O’Donoghue’s pub, just around the corner from the beautiful Georgian brick building that houses BC Ireland. Surrounding you are a group of equally adventurous BC Law 2L and 3L’s, most of whom you could not have named before this semester, but now you wouldn’t hesitate in calling them friends. You’re listening to the two chaps in the corner booth play a fully unplugged set of classic Irish folk songs; occasionally one will stand up and reprimand the crowd for not being quiet enough or to pass around the hat. You’ve spent most of the day working at your internship at a well-respected Irish law firm, dedicated non-profit, budding tech company, or maybe the world’s largest aircraft leasing company. The Guinness sitting in front of you is rumored to be the best in Dublin.
I have the privilege of spending my summer in New Orleans, working on indigent capital appeals. A lot of my day is spent in the organization’s library, digging into criminal law research questions. I’ve also had the opportunity to join an attorney at a status conference for a federal civil suit challenging the heat conditions on death row, and to visit some of our clients there.
This is my house for the summer, a carriage house converted into a studio. A few things about New Orleans: it’s humid (imagine living in the moment when you step out of a hot shower), the streets flood (past your ankles), the cockroaches are prolific (and big), and it’s one of the most amazing cities I’ve been in.
I’m looking forward to the next eight weeks here, learning more about the city and meeting more incredible attorneys who are dedicating their lives to saving those of others.
“I don’t have a voice. But when you speak on my behalf, I get heard.”
As a law student, I don’t usually consider myself to be in a position of power or influence. In fact, I usually feel quite intimidated, whether I’m with a professor during office hours, trying to sound intelligent (when I’m actually utterly confused about the subject), or at a job interview, doing my best to persuade the interviewers that I’m a worthy candidate (while trying not to shake and stutter from anxiety).
So when my client Joseph* said those words to me, I practically burst into tears. Me? A mere law student? Give him a voice?
When people asked me about my summer (How was work? Did you like what you did?), I found it difficult to provide an adequate account of what I was doing. I spent my summer with the Child Protection Unit at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s office. The Assistant District Attorneys (ADAs) there form part of the team that investigates and, if appropriate, prosecutes instances of child physical and sexual abuse in Suffolk County, which includes Boston, Revere, Chelsea, and Winthrop. At the Superior Court level almost all of the cases they handle deal with allegations of sexual abuse involving children. To be clear, the following will include a discussion of those cases, and some of it may be difficult to read. Continue reading
I’m so excited to be hosting a guest blog from 2L Lauren Koster on her public interest experiential learning experience.
For the spring semester of our 1L year, Boston College Law introduced an exciting element of choice: selecting an experiential learning elective to start building the skills it takes to be a lawyer. Some of our classmates opted for a course to practice negotiation or civil litigation. In the course of my choosing, “Leadership, Communication, and Social Justice for the Public Interest Practitioner,” our experiential element was driven entirely by a team project of our own design.
What’s it like to be a judge?
It’s my sixth week of working for Judge Dineen Riviezzo of the Kings County (Brooklyn) Supreme Court. Judge Riviezzo hears felony cases and Article 10 civil confinement cases. Also, every Friday, she’s in charge of the juvenile offender part, where she hears cases involving 14, 15, and 16-year-olds who would normally be heard in Family Court, but because they commit certain serious crimes, are heard in Supreme Court (but are often afforded youthful offender treatment).
So far, I can say that being a judge requires three major qualities.
First, it requires patience. Whether it’s dealing with an attorney’s mistake, sorting out a disagreement between the parties, or waiting for a defendant to be produced or parties to show up, I’ve learned that for judges, every day is a test of patience. Continue reading